The Francophile’s Style Guide: How to Dress Like French Women
The French are known for their classy, elegant, and effortlessly chic style. And for good reason. People and especially fashion lovers all over the world strive to match the French women's style or at least discover and take inspiration from it to incorporate into their own personal style. As a diehard Francophile who loves french culture, that is definitely my inspiration!
When it comes to what it means to dress like stylish French women, one of the first things that comes to mind is that French women wear their clothes rather than their clothes wearing them. Sometimes fashion can overwhelm a person, having the clothes be the statement rather than the individual wearing it. While French fashion can play with beautiful design, it is focused on highlighting the beauty of the woman.
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If you love French fashion and the way French women dress, I have this style guide for you. Here are some of the different ways you can dress like a French woman and achieve this kind of look. This is the ultimate secret formula for how to dress like a Parisian and the good news is you can do it too!
Less is more
When it comes to pulling your looks together, opt for the mentality that less is more. Find a balance between sophisticated and effortless and avoid overdoing it. A statement piece can really pull a look together but going above and beyond this can actually take away from your outfit rather than elevating it.
Always be understated
The French don’t go over the top with their looks, instead opting to be understated. This means avoiding flashy logos and over-accessorizing. After all, you want to wear your looks rather than them wearing you. This also draws attention to the pieces that you do choose to wear rather than overwhelming a look with too much going on.
Avoid very high heels
French women won’t be caught in a situation like wearing heels that they are unable to walk in. It is never a good look to be hobbling around in heels that are painful and that draws focus to the unstable walking rather than to the woman. French women opt for low to medium heels, and it is always recommended to practice walking in a pair of shoes before wearing them to ensure that you feel comfortable and confident. The exception is red carpet events when wearing an evening dress!
Cinch your waist (whenever possible)
While oversized clothes have had their moment, highlighting your shape and cinching your waist can make all the difference in terms of how put-together you look. Whether it is cinching your waist with a belt over a blazer or sweater, using a belt or detail on a dress, or having a pair of pants that hit you at the perfect spot and wearing the right blouse to keep that waist detail, this small trick can make you feel more confident and instantly elevate your outfit.
Make sure that your clothes fit well
French women know that the key is to wear quality pieces that fit you perfectly. This doesn’t mean wearing something tight but rather wearing something that is tailored to you and your body. If you love a piece or wish for something to “just fit me a bit better here” it is well worth the expense and effort to get a piece hemmed or tailored.
You’ll not only feel more confident, but it will also elevate your outfit. Not to mention, you will get a lot more wear out of a piece that you feel incredible in rather than what you would out of a piece that fits just OK. It is the little things like this that contribute to an efficient French wardrobe.
Do not try too hard
A little bit goes a long way. While it is one thing to put time and attention into your looks, don’t try too hard! After all, an effortlessly chic look is the goal. If you find yourself overthinking your outfit for the day, scale it back and start out with your favorite classic pieces that make you feel your best.
Sometimes bringing it back to basics can inspire you to mix things up in another way and reset how you’re approaching your look for the day. Or, you can end up rocking your favorite classics and know you look great! If you want to incorporate bright colors (or bold colors) into your color palette, try them in your scarf, shoes, or other accessories.
Create a signature look
A signature look is a style that you wear and feel so confident in, it feels like you're wearing your own skin. It's what we all aspire to achieve, but for some of us, it takes more time than others. In order to find your perfect look, first, take inventory of the clothes that make you feel good about yourself.
For example: What do I always reach for? Am I mostly drawn to bright colors or dark colors? Do I prefer fitted pieces or looser ones? And what kind of silhouette do my favorite items have? Once taking an inventory has helped identify certain traits in the clothing that make me feel most comfortable and confident, then try mixing those different styles together until one emerges as a clear winner. This doesn't mean that you only wear one thing, but it's a good guideline to start with.
Must-Have Pieces for Your French-Inspired Wardrobe
By now you have a good idea of how to achieve the ‘French look,' there are some must-have fashion staples and accessories to have in your wardrobe to put together these outfits. These pieces may seem similar to those that you often see in capsule wardrobes, and that’s because they are! The classic and elevated basics can offer so much to your wardrobe and you can do more with them than you may have even thought.
What do French women wear? Below is a list of what you will likely find in a French woman’s wardrobe and it is EASY to replicate.
Beige or black leather bag
A leather bag in a neutral color is a must for your collection, and for many, it becomes the most used daily bag. It pairs with any outfit, and you may only be inclined to swap it out when you want more of an evening bag. A top handle bag in beige or black, from a high-quality store like Mirta for example, is a great place to start your handbag collection. Just remember the best thing to do is to avoid flashy logos as the French do!
When people think of shoes and French fashion, ballet flats are often top of the list. This classic shoe is definitely Parisian chic and a go-to shoe for French women. They are not practical to walk around in but they are stylish, not to mention they go with just about any look.
While these shoes might be part of many women's Parisian styles, I personally don't recommend these for walking in Paris unless you have inserts – walking on cobblestone in ballerina flats hurts! However Parisian women do wear them, and flawlessly! You can still flaunt them to dress like a Parisian, just not *in* Paris!
UNLESS they are Jambu. You know how I love my Jambu shoes! If you want a little more rugged ballerina look, go for the JSport by Jambu Women's Spin Encore Ballet Flat.
If you want to know what to wear in Paris or what clothes to wear in France, then check out my posts on what to pack and what to wear by season:
Fall/Autumn in Paris
Winter in Paris
Spring in Paris
Summer in Paris
+ 5 Tips for How to Pack for Paris
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A black blazer is an absolute must to channel that French style. It elevates any outfit and even with jeans, a tee, and sneakers, it makes your outfit more stylish yet still with an effortless look. This is a piece, in particular, worth tailoring to ensure it fits you perfectly. It is one that you will have years to come and if you embrace French fashion, it is one that you will find yourself constantly incorporating into outfits.
Little black dress
The little black dress is an important part of any French-inspired wardrobe. Whether you choose one with sleeves or go sleeveless, this is the kind of piece that you'll want to have in your closet. You can wear it on just about any occasion for just about any time of the year.
Just make sure the style fits your personal sense of style as it can come in a number of different cuts and styles, depending on what you're looking for. You can wear it with a denim jacket and boots for a casual look, or dress it up by adding heels and statement jewelry to switch things up.
The little black dress doesn't have to be a big investment, but it should be high quality as you will go back to it time and time again.
Skirts, whether they are shorter or longer, are versatile pieces that you can easily carry over from season to season by switching up how you pair them. A neutral midi skirt, for example, is a great place to start because you can wear season to season by just switching out the top and shoe option you pair it with.
You can wear a midi skirt with heeled sandals and a neutral top in the spring and summer for example, and wear the same skirt with a sweater and boots in the fall.
A white button-down shirt is one of those timeless pieces every woman needs. It is a classic and versatile piece for any wardrobe. It can be worn with anything from jeans to a skirt, and it looks good on just about everyone. French women wear them because they know how chic it makes their outfits look while still remaining effortless and timeless.
It's also an essential piece for French women because you can't go wrong with this staple item that will complete your wardrobe throughout the year. Try wearing one with some sneakers, or dress it up by pairing it with heels and a statement necklace. Just make sure the style fits your personal sense of style as it can come in a number of different styles and cuts.
The other white shirt you need is a simple t-shirt that can be worn under many things or alone with jeans.
Oversized sweaters are those pieces that are cozy and you can make them look unexpectedly chic just as easily as you can dress them down. Pair them with pants or tucked into a skirt for a more dressed-up look, or dress your sweater down with a pair of jeans and sneakers or boots. You’ll want a few different colors and styles of oversized sweaters in your collection, and make sure to include those neutral palette colors that you can pair with just about anything.
Black tights or black leggings are essential to have in your wardrobe. They are the perfect layering piece to have and make it easy to transition some of your favorite warmer-season looks into the cooler days. A summer dress, for example, can be worn with a pair of black tights and boots with perhaps a sweater or blazer over.
Good pair of flattering jeans
There is nothing like a good pair of flattering jeans. It can take time to find the perfect pair (there are so many styles to choose from depending on your body type: skinny jeans, boyfriend, etc.) but is well worth it once you find the one that you feel and look great in. I actually think American women have it easier.
We have access to a lot of brands that are far less expensive than what you can buy them for in France. (Jeans are not on the list of things to buy from Paris because they cost 2-to-3 times as much as they do in the US). This is one area where the American style wins!
White jeans are a spring and summer staple, not to mention incredibly versatile. Particularly after the winter season and often wearing darker neutral colors, it is fun to have a pair of white jeans that you can pop with a floral top or neutral top and look chic.
In addition to your white jeans, some colors to consider incorporating into your jeans collection are light blue, darker blue, and a black pair of jeans ( good pair of black pants or black trousers are good to have as well).
A leather jacket is that staple piece that you’ll reach for over and over again. You can wear it with your favorite casual looks such as jeans and a tee or a sweater, but also dress it up by pairing it with your favorite dress or more elevated outfit. Out of all the layering pieces, this is probably one of the most versatile ones.
If you care for it well, this piece can also last you years to come and withstand consistent use. This can be one of the least expensive pieces you have because if you are a smart shopper you can pick one of these up at a vintage shop and it will already be broken in! Plus you will get a second lifetime of wear.
If you're looking to dress like a French woman, it doesn't get more quintessential than a chic trench coat. The French love wearing them because it's an iconic part of French fashion. For this reason, you're going to want to invest in a trench coat that fits your personal style best.
You can't go wrong with this chic piece that will complete your wardrobe throughout the year. Try a more casual look with some sneakers, or dress it up by pairing it with heels and a statement necklace. Make sure that the length hits you at your knee, as well as consider what sleeve length works best for your height as it can come in petite to long sizes like regular and extra-long sleeve options.
You'll enjoy great style all year round with this essential piece.
Learn by example: How do people in Paris dress
While I’ve gone over some styling ideas and pieces to make sure you have to pull together those French looks, it is always fun to look at some French-style icons for inspiration. Coco Chanel is an obvious mention here. As well as Jane Birkin, Catherine Deneuve, and Brigitte Bardot. Even as older women, these fashionable French ladies held reign.
Then there is Carine Roitfeld and Emmanuelle Alt (current and former editors of Vogue, who many women around the world view with tremendous respect because they look as good as their magazine cover!), and French celebrities Charlotte Gainsbourg (who by the way, is hilarious in her episode of Call My Agent, season 4, episode 1), Clémence Poésy (all grown up now since playing Fleur Delacour in Harry Potter!), Caroline de Maigret and even Instagram fashionista Audrey Rodgers of Be Frassy.
All of them are the constant subject in photos of Parisian it-girls and street-style Instagram shots. Every one of them is a young Parisian woman with a unique style.
One of the best parts about French fashion is that because so much of it focuses on classic pieces, you can draw great inspiration from women generations back and some of the same pieces will be worn and modern fashion can often give a nod to these stylish women. Study some of the classic designers in the Parisian fashion industry like Chanel, Yves Saint Laurent, Dior, Louis Vuitton, and Jeanne Lanvin.
French women's clothing online: Create your own French girl style!
In a world where you can get just about anything online, it is very easy to dress like a Parisian
- If you do want those ballerina flats, check out the French brand Repetto.
- For solid investment pieces check out Maje and Sandro.
- For a little bit of everything, try Zadig & Voltaire.
- Hard to get as they always have a limited collection that changes every month, but Sézane is magnifique!
- J.Crew, Madewell, and Anthropologie always have something that a Francophile will love.
- You can also get the new “it shoe,” a white tennis shoe from Veja from Madewell.
- I love the line from Clare V., but it is SO expensive!
- Of course, you know that I love the marinière, the classic French striped shirt. You can buy them from Saint James and The Breton Shirt Co.
How much time you spend on following these unique style rules is up to you, try out one or two of these suggestions and build your own personal style based on a classic French foundation.
How much time you spend on following these style rules is up to you, try out one or two of these fashion rules and build your own personal style based on a classic French foundation. The important thing to remember is you are building your own wardrobe and you should love it.
At the end of the day, vive la French girl style (or Parisian girl style)! Beret hats, oversized sunglasses, red lipstick, and all!
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The French have it all when it comes to fashion and you have shown this. The ideas that you have given are so important when dressing in any country.
I loved learning about the French clothing style. I love that they don’t do high heels
French people have the best style. I wish I were stylish but I just live in jeans and a t-shirt and call it a day.
This post is really informative, thanks for creating this style guide.
Fun post! I struggle with my personal style, but this really helped me!
I can’t say I have much style, and these are fun tips. It is interesting to learn about French style.
Thanks for the tips. I really loved French fashion, it’s nice knowing more about it!
I’ve always loved this style. They have such a great style of fashion.
French women are always so impeccably dressed. I’m sure a lot of ladies would appreciate these style suggestions.
Thanks for these suggestions and tips. French women are always stylish and elegant.
I so love these French outfit ideas including the accessories. I so love that black top matched with that black bag.
Elegance is the French way of dressing they have style; while the rest of the world either Grunge it out or our over the top in their dress style.
I feel that « French girl » style is a myth. Many, many French women are dressed very casually. Jeans and a tee. Also, there are Parisian women vs the rest of France. In Paris itself there are multiple districts some are ok, a few are for the wealthy…Maybe some older French women dress well…but that is about all.
@Elle, agree entirely with you! Having lived in France and visited Paris (where my mother-in-law lived for 30 years) I know this to be true. But the myth and stereotype live on.